Common Problems: Aggression in the Early Game

One of the most frustrating experiences for beginners is a losing over and over again against anonymous human opponents on a ladder. If you read the previous chapter and followed the advice, you probably picked one or two „standard“ Build Orders for your training. The goal of these type of Build Orders is to gain small advantages, until you eventually reach the end game. However, it’s a tough road, as there will be games in which you lost in the first ten minutes. Some of these losses you simply have to endure; some of them you can prevent rather easily. The following chapter is for those who a) picked one macro-oriented build, and b) played more than fifty games trying to follow the build.

  1. Mindset
  2. Early Game and Macro Builds
    1. The Trivial Scenario: Mechanics and Stress
  3. Prevention
    1. Do not lose your first scout
    2. Tells of Aggression
  4. Reactions
    1. Sim City: Melee
    2. Sim City: Ranged Attacks
    3. Small Tricks
  5. The Danger: Counter Attacks

Mindset

Before we get to analysis, tipps and tricks, we should first speak a few words about motivation. A lost game is always an opportunity, not something you should lose our head over. Even the Korean professionals lose in their training games against the most wonky shit, or have to go through a ton of idiots trying to snipe them with very aggressive things. Each single game provides you with information you desperately need to improve. It’s easier to realize a mistake in a lost game, as there will be consequences visible, than to realize you played badly since always, but still won. Don’t see your opponent as bully, view him as computer – you don’t need to be friends with him, you need him to play.

Early Game and Macro Builds

The early game in „standard“ Build Orders will always, for all races, look similar. All have a pattern in common:

  1. Train workers
  2. Expand
  3. Add production structures and unlock futher technology
  4. prepare a mid game army
  5. (attack)

The first point – training workers – is trivial. You will always constantly train SCVs as Terran, drone up as Zerg or buy Probes as Protoss. This is done regardless of how exactly the timing of your Build Order is. It doesn’t matter if you build a 12 Hatch or a 11 Pool, it doesn’t matter if you go Forge-Nexus-Cannons, or Cannons-Nexus-Gate. And so on and so forth. Remember that. More importantly to understand why you might lose early on is to realize that you can always add a little variation to your timings.

We also already learned in the previous chapter, that each of the instruction points of the Builds have a deeper purpose. For instance, if you build a Pool earlier as Zerg, you do so because of one or two reasons. Reason one being, that you scouted something aggressive, which you want to be prepared against; Reason two being, that you want to be a little bit more aggressive and shut down the opponent’s scout – or that it is required, because you play on a small map with small walking distances.

Be that as it may, usually no beginner loses with a standard Build in the first ten minutes, because he went for the wrong opening sequence. Usually, you lose because somewhere at point 3 something went wrong. You tried to follow the build, for instance wanted to add Gateways after a Forge Expansion – when suddenly 12 Hydralisks busted you Natural. Or Terran tried to add more factories and suddenly saw a Dark Templar drop killing his main base. How do you prevent that?

The Trivial Scenario: Mechanics and Stress

The trivial scenario is that you lost because of mechanics and stress. I said that it’s not that common that beginners lose, because they were outplayed – well only partially true. After a ladder reset a higher ranked player might destroy you with a few units, simply because your micro isn’t that great. However, you will realize that on your own.

More crucial is the stress you will be under. You do know that the first minutes are important. For instance, if a Protoss sees Tanks in front of his Fast Expansion, he will panic. He might do the right decisions, but will lose overall. You microed well, but it’s too much for you to add Gateways – or in other words – what was expected of you in step 3. It’s hard, you’re under constant fire, your opponent has to do fewer commands, and you have to macro at the same time. Hence, you might lose.

Aside from all you have done wrong before this even happened – being pushed against the wall, that is – let’s spend a few thoughts on how you should react. First off, any opponent playing very aggressively in the first minutes does know that his attack has to deal a lot of damage. If he can attack you, he will also have sacrificed economical potential. Instead of building workers (which you did), he build units. These units will soon be fragile and inferior to what you can offer. He has to exploit his timing window very well, or he will be in a disadvantage. Do not underestimate the pressure he’s under, it’s not less than what you experience at the same moment. Realize that every minute he stagnates is a minute YOU won.

Hence, your priority as defender is to stall him. You do not neccessarily have to push him back, as time works against your opponent. If you realize that he doesn’t move on the next twenty seconds, spend the next twenty seconds with that:

  1. if you can hold his attack / stall it: add more Pylons / Depots / Overlords and/or unlock better technology and/or add more production structures (Gates, Factories, Barracks, Hatcheries)
  2. if you can not hold his next wave, re-inforce your static defenses, then spend the rest on the first point

Also, do never, ever, give up, until you realize, that there’s no chance in hell you can come back. A lot of low level players (this goes up for B- by the way), do tend to throw the game. If your opponent feels like he could destroy you and gets impatient, chances are good he sacrifices just this little bit too much to offer you a come back. If you lost our natural – so be it. Go on with your plan, but don’t just get out. Only once he moved up your ramp, you are down to 5 workers, you might leave.

Prevention

Let’s discuss how it could have come to a point, at where you were with your back against the wall. Any standard Build can take a lot of aggression, before it goes down. As we saw, each of them has room enough to adapt to the most powerful Rush options your opponent has. Only very thought through design Builds might „hard counter“ you.

Here’s where the scouting part comes in again. We already learned some facts of how you should scout – starting with the worker number seven in total (eigth worker is being trained) / the worker at 8/9 supply leaving your base. This one is crucial.

Do not lose your first scout

Gathering information about your opponent’s opening is pivotal. If you play blindly, you will fall. Most beginners lose because of this fact and I do get why. I often played internal games with clan mates, and I did develope a feeling what to anticipate very soon – for instance, one of my training partners would always go for a slow Macro opening off 3 Bases as Zerg. As consequence, I didn’t mind all too much, if my first Probe was kicked by a Zergling after seeing where his third base was at. I knew I had another four minutes of peace, before he would unleash his macro. Now, every now and ten he would go for an aggressive variation of his build and crush me. That happened once in ten games – or in other words, one in ten games, which I could have won, if I would not have been lazy. Only because you meet a lot of standard players, you do not know for a certainty all of them will leave you alone long enough.

Hence, if your first worker dies, send out a second one immediately. Make this your top priority. Even if that worker has to take a detour, to dodge whatever killed the first one, do it. Even if it can’t enter the opponent’s base, let it stand in vision of the entrance. Censored information is still better than no information at all.

Tells of Aggression

Let’s assume you follow the advice, there’s still the small problem to know what to look out for. Since this chapter only refers to the early game, we can safely say that you will see very aggressive openings. In other words, there are a few thick signs you can hardly miss, especially since low ranked opponents have a hard time to disguise their intention from a somewhat well performed scout – or don’t even care to put on a mask.

We already learned that a player who attacks early on can only do so, because he doesn’t care a lot for his workers. In modern Brood War any one base Build Order in non-mirror matches is a strong hint something is up. Even a very passive Fast Expansion Build, such as a Siege Expansion, or a Two Gate Obs can be scouted long enough to see what’s coming.

A Terran or Protoss who stays on one base against Zerg, or a Zerg who stays long on one base is a guaranteed rusher, or prepares another kind of wonky attack. The bigger problems occur in TvP and PvZs from the Terran’s and Protoss’ respective point of view. Yet, there are still signs what to look out for. The best and cleanest way to quickly know what to look out for is the number of units being build.

A Protoss who has more than five Dragoons before his Probe goes to the Natural will most likely try to bust. If he doesn’t, he is so bad that he will fall to your macro either way, so a little safety won’t kill you. A Zerg who doesn’t build Drones in two of his three bases will have something else in mind. That’s all there is to it on low ranks. Mind you, speaking of D- to mid D+.

Another indicator is the Gas. Compare when your opponent first started to mine gas, when he temporarily stopped, and when he mined again in ordinary, standard games. If your opponent mines before, or doesn’t stop at all, something is off. Anticipate the worst. If he does so, because he has no clue what he does, your standard build will crush him in the long run. So don’t worry about being over protective.

Reactions

It should go without saying: If you scout something aggressive and you already made the first steps to start a standard (expansion) build, you have to react. There is literally no way to hard counter his opening at all – you have no units to do so. Any kind of attempt to pull of something fancy will most definitely be your end. There are some slight exceptions where you can at least re-direct a small amount of pressure and delay his attack for a few minutes at best; but you shouldn’t try that.

From your gathered scouting information, you should be able to deduce what will hit you. There are only two possibilites: A heavy attack with melee units, or a heavy attack with ranged units. The reaction to both is basically the same, but a few tricks here and there can increase the chances of you coming out on top.

First off, regardless of what he throws at you, he will need space to launch the attack. If he wants to tear down your Natural, he needs the entire front – the more units of his can attack, the better for him. If he wants to run into your main base, he needs a gap in your Natural he can run his units through.

Sim City: Melee

Sim City is a technique you should do regardless of what your opponent picks. Sim City refers to a set up of buildings in your Natural expansion. There are „two ways“ to smartly use that, the first one we discuss now.

It’s obvious that melee units can only attack when standing next to a building. Hence, if Zerglings want to attack, they need to reach your Photon Cannon, Bunker (Marines) or Sunken Colonies first. If they can’t, they can’t attack. Also, if some Zealot wants to run into your main base, he has to get there first. He can’t if something is in the way.

Sim City in Action: Protoss Forge Fast Expansion Set Up on Fighting Spirit

More Examples can be found on Liquipedia (search for the map name!)

Consequently, if your defending structures and ranged units are hiding out behind unrelated Buildings, such as a Supply Depot, a Forge or whatever else, they are „safe“ for the moment. The melee units have to kill them fast. If units attempting to run by have to cross a maze first, they will die in the process.

For every modern map – the ones you will play on the most – such set ups for each race have been figured out. Actually, it’s a kind of science you will learn automatically. Remember, defenders against Melee attacks should always seek cover, not be in front!

There’s a chance you don’t get the Sim City (alias Wall-in in this case) right from the start. Or because you play on maps you never seen before. In this case, take a worker (any) and try to move beyond your wall-in. If it goes through, use it as block. It doesn’t matter if it stays idle, the extra block can save lives.

If the choke is too big to close it with a wall-in, put three workers on your ramp to avoid seeing a run by getting through. Again, not bad if the workers are idle, it’s always better to be safe than sorry in this case.

Sim City: Ranged Attacks

The same logic can be applied in a fight against ranged units – if you placed down your buildings smartly, there’s a lot in for you. Now for the difference: ranged units can shoot over blocks, they do not have to kill the blocking buildings first. Yet, in most cases, the attacking ranged units will need an update to increase their range so much, that they can safely target down your defending structures. Take for instance Dragoons – they can’t attack a bunker before their upgrade was done.

However, attacks with range units work differently. They usually come in a little later than melee attacks, and will start to „contain“ you – keep you in your base, to shut down scouting and any kind of soft aggression you might want to try. Use that time to match the number attackers with static defense buildings.

Against ordinary range units, such as Marines or Hydras, build them in a line, so they can all attack at once. Also, try to build them as far away from your natural as possible, without being in range of your opponent.

Next, if you deal with splash units, such as Lurkers or Siege Tanks, it might be a good idea to leave small gaps between buildings. Especially Zerg can delay a succesful Siege Tank Push for a good while if his Sunkens are slightly spread out. This buys an extra 50 HP in average (number made up, but it’s a lot) for longetivity.

Last but not least: Range units might close in sooner or later. If you see a group of Hydralisks being commanded to move (or Dragoons against Terran) – try to block their movement with melee units, and if need be, with workers. You do not want more attackers to get in range of your defense. In a perfect world, they’d come in one by one. Move back your melee defenders, if the attacker retreats and tries to snipe the defenders. This can go back and forth, but, if done correctly, plays in your hands, not his.

Small Tricks

Now for the part that is purely optional on your side – if you can’t manage it right away, don’t try to force anything. You have tons of little tricks to increase the power of your defense by pulling off some stunts.

In some builds you will realize that your initial units are utterly useless. In the scenario of a Protoss with a Forge Fast Expand being attacked by Hydralisks, the first Zealots can’t do a thing. If they attack, they won’t deal damage. However, if sent out in the middle of the map before the first contain starts, they can either try to attack re-inforcements, or better, go after the Drones of the unprotected base. Consequently Zerg has to temporarily delay his important attack.

There are plenty of examples where your first units can be used in such a way. At home, they’re of no use, and it will take a few minutes before they will play a role again; if you have one or two cheap units less, it won’t matter. Now it’s important for you to decide what to do with these units. If they can annoy, they should do so. If not, it’s still better to leave them at home – even if they only deal one or two blows, there’s one or two free blows for you.

Against ranged unit attacks, it can be of help to soak up damage with aforementioned useless units. For instance, if Zerg is under siege by a Siege Tank, he can sacrifice one or two Zerglings to free up Sunken Colonies. The principle is simple, but very hard to pull off. If Terran just has his Siege Tanks idle, they will only attack the Sunkens if no other target is in range. Now, if you send out the Zergling in between the shots, the next volley will kick the Zergling, not the Sunken. One volley of time bought. Might be helpful in cases.

The example can be transferred onto other situations. For instance, a Terran with six Marines might attack a Dragoon wave, since only one bunker and four Marines are needed. Or a Protoss can go back and forth to lure Hydralisks away or into Cannons. It doesn’t need to die, but it might be annoying to deal with for Zerg.

The Danger: Counter Attacks

The by far biggest danger of aggression is to underestimate the brute force they are. When I was still struggling to rank up, I often lost even after defending the attack. This is very easy to achieve, and more frustrating than you can possibly imagine.

To elaborate, if a melee attack comes in and dies in front of your base, you might be fooled into believing that was all there was. At this point the attacker is so commited to his opening, that he has barely any choice, but to try it again. He will have exactly the economy he needs to replace his losses in a few minute and might even be able to double the number. At this point, if you rally your few troops and go out, you will be first killed in the middle of the map, and a few seconds later, in your Natural as well. All you can do at this point is to fold, as the third wave of replacements will come in.

What you should do instead is to follow your game plan (Build Order) to the very last word. If it tells you to build up an attack, build up the attack, but keep up your guard. This one attack with superior units in a larger number will be enough to steam roll your opponent, regardless of what he does. If he manages to hang on, you can still safely expand and expand again, while he has to come up with some magic. His back will be against he wall for at least the next ten minutes. Play it cool, play it safe.

First Steps 3: An Intro to Strategy (Build Order Basics)

So far I explained a lot of stuff total beginners need in order to control the game – how to handle macro, how to generally prepare for battle, and how to scout. Yet, none of the information really provides any help for „strategy“. People often expect an intro to „good“ strategies, so they know what they should do, the „how“ to do things is of least interest. If you’re still a beginner and skipped the parts leading until here, be warned: Strategy (in the context of these tutorials) doesn’t help that much in the lowest ranks.

Also, this chapter will explain a lot of phrases, rather than „a strategy“. We will perform some analysis of deeper ideas first, so you can understand upcoming advanced techniques better. Consequently, this chapter is designed for D- to D ranked players. However, there’s a huge possibility that you already know some stuff, but looked at some principles the wrong way – trust me, there’s a good chance you did the wrong stuff but suceeded. Hence, if you’re stuck in the high D+ ranks or the low C- ranks (sometimes even up to mid C ranks), a look at this chapter might be of use.

  1. Wrong Legends – Fighting Stereotypes
    1. Brood War is hard to learn
    2. Brood War is figured out
    3. Only Koreans are doing it right – I have to learn from the Pros
    4. Improving, nothing else! I play hardcore!
  2. Definitions
  3. Types of Strategy
    1. The Rush: All-in vs. Aggression
    2. „The Standard“: Focussing on Economy
    3. The Timing Strategies
    4. What Strategy to use?
  4. Build Orders
    1. Absolute Timings
    2. Relative Timings
    3. The Stages of the Game
    4. Game Stages and Builds
  5. Means and Ends
    1. An Example: Means and Ends
    2. Some Simple Rules
  6. Preview: Advanced Techniques

Wrong Legends – Fighting Stereotypes

Brood War is hard to learn

True – it is. Especially when it comes to very complicated timings and underlying thoughts. Yet, any given match up will follow a general pattern, you will understand very easily. For instance, you will soon realize that a Fast Expansion allows you to macro up, or that a special unit combination can counter a variety of potential opposing army combinations. It’s really not as if every foreigner figured the game out; quite the opposite is true: many low ranked players have no clue why and what they do. If you learn principles correctly, you will improve fast. No hundreds of lost games needed.

Brood War is figured out

Following up – many people complain the game is figured out and that there would be universal strategies. Aforementioned points, such as the tendency to expand quickly, might trick you into believing it’s the only way to play. It’s not. First off, the expansion strategies have tons of potential variations, which require you to think a lot. Secondly, there’s always room to add your personal touch to the game – be it by not following the trends, or be it by adapting stuff slightly. Just try a few games and you will realize what I mean.

Only Koreans are doing it right – I have to learn from the Pros

That’s the biggest kind of bullshit I have read in my entire life. It might be fun for a Chess newb to watch a stream, on which a National Master tries to analyze the game of a Grand Master – but he will never truely understand the details. So is the case for Brood War. Again, you will see why Koreans play the way they do, but the details will escape you in the early stages of your career. Blindly doing what they do will not work, simply because you will lack the understanding or the mechanics or both. Do not try to copy their style without thinking.

Futhermore, there were and are plenty of top tier foreigners. There is something I tag as „American School of Brood War“: These guys always cherished Korea more than the rest of us. I do understand why they say real change can only come from Korea; no, not really. Mondragon for instance added revolutionary aspects to Zerg vs. Protoss and beat some Koreans along the way. Respect the Korean high tier professionals for their achievements, but don’t fall for the trap that everything they ever did is the only way to play the game. The average Korean casual is no better than you, nor does he know more than you. Chances are, that you can beat him by odd foreigner stuff. Since you will never turn professional, there’s nothing bad to it – play for fun, don’t play to cause you idiolize Koreans.

Improving, nothing else! I play hardcore!

Yeah, again – play for fun. You should spend about 60% of your training time to play what people will tell you is „standard“ or „a good approach“. In the rest of the time do whatever you like. Playing the same shit all over again is not only boring, it’s also frustrating. Feel free to do something utterly stupid, play different modes or wonky maps like Fastest Possible. There’s no downside to it. Add some variation to your game. As a matter of fact, many of the best foreigners came from non-serious modes. To list a few examples: Mondragon and the Templars of Twilight were BGH players; Koreans often play fun maps in the middle of the night, or wonky team games, they know are not helping them to train. They love the game, and they love many aspects of it. You don’t have to love the same modes, but you can switch – races, modes, maps, whatever you like. If it’s getting frustrating, it’s always better to take a deep breath and do something else for a while.

Definitions

Before we enter the realms of strategy we should try to understand what strategy really is. Trust me, almost none of the foreigners tried to make a difference in between strategy and non-strategy. They use strange synonyms and expect outsiders to understand the lingo right away. Yet, this odd language is – in my opinion – one of the main reasons people get stuck sooner or later. Without outside help, they rarely overcome a bad loss streak and give up sooner or later. Hence, let’s try to understand what we’re trying to learn here.

First off, strategy – in the context of any game or business model – is often defined as the allocation of all available resources to reach a specific goal. You invest money to get more money, you gather resources, build structures, train units and try to win the game with that. It’s such a non-saying definition, that it really doesn’t help. In the context of this guides, strategy will be a plan we have, to reach a specific purpose. We will try to learn to only do actions which have a higher meaning – we only train a unit, because we need the unit. We only attack if we think we get an advantage from it, not because there’s nothing else we can come up with. To sum it up: We will always use our means to our own ends. Strategy, in this tutorials, will not be a Build Order (which is explained later), or the idea to expand on a specific map at a specific time. It’s more about abstract ideas. The main difference between “strategy” and “non-strategy” will be a lot clearer, the longer you read on. For now, remember everything you do should have a purpose.

Now for the first very stupid synonym: Meta Game. Most wannabes use Meta Game as synonym for „the standard way“ to play, or “the standard strategy”. To elaborate, there are tons of ideas, which aren’t used anymore. For instance, Protoss in the early days often opened with one Gatway in their main base and quickly teched up, when they faced a Zerg opponent. In more modern Brood War these kind of openings aren’t all that great – they can be countered easily. Maps changed, and with that, the walking distances grew larger. A lot of the openings required short walking distances. So: They can still be put to work, however, not easily on modern maps.
Or another example „Meta Game“ can refer to: In the old days any Terran would use Marines and Medics in the early game against Zerg – no other units, no Vultures or Tanks. Using an opening and skipping Marines and Medics would be „against the Meta Game“. Doesn’t mean a game can not be won by using Factory units, it’s just not as common.

Now for the twist: Meta Game’s real meaning is only losely related to what people in the forums use. Meta means „in between“ and thus describes thoughts you do „before“ or „after“ a game. For example, analyzing your game plan of a past game in order to improve its weaknesses would be „Meta Gaming“. Or preparing a very specific opening for a very specific map in your head – that would be Meta Gaming. In this chapter we will not care for such things, as the true meaning of Meta Game is part of more advanced strategy.

Types of Strategy

Identifying strategy is anything but easy. Strategy according to chess players, would have a concrete goal: For example trying to attack the F2/F7 square against an un-castled king, or trying to get a pawn to the opposing eigth or first rank. In Brood War such thoughts are hard to make – most of „strategy“ is done before a game and then thrown over completely. In a game’s reality you will have to adapt and adapt over and over again. You can’t just stick with an idea, or pause the game to overthink.

Yet, if we stay on an abstract level, we can identify some very basic strategy principles – overall goals of our opening.

The Rush: All-in vs. Aggression

The Rush is the easiest type of strategy to understand. The opening (sequence of first buildings) aims to build a small, but powerful army. If the opponent scouts late or understimates the power behind a „rush“ strategy, the game can be ended early on.

In its most aggressive variation a rush can be played as „All-In“. Workers are left out and the entire focus of the macromanagement is to produce fighting units as fast as possible – for example only building two Drones  and placing down the Spawning Pool at six Supply; Zerglings are available very fast, most likely in a time frame in which the opponent has no fighting units yet. If the attack works, you won, if not, you lost – because you have no Drones to build reinforcements.

However, Rushes aim to put pressure on the opponent early on. You want to have an advantage very soon – by attacking and dealing severe damage. It doesn’t need to be „the overall“ goal to end the game with an early attack, it just increases the chances that you can.

„The Standard“: Focussing on Economy

What people refer to „Standard“ in modern Brood War is the opposite of a rush. You try to expand first and play defensive in the first minutes. Survival is key. The expansions early on allow you to build more units later – and with more units you can expand again, to get even more units. You will always try to prolong a cold war scenario, until you control most expansions on the map. Only in the late stages you attack over and over again, to slowly crush your opponent thanks to a better economy backing you up. At least on paper, it’s a lot more difficult in reality.

The Timing Strategies

There are strategies in between „Standard“ and „Rushes“ – designed strategies so to speak. Instead of rushing as in an attacking early, you try to generate a timing. You scout a „standard“ opening for example – a very fast expansion. Instead of going „standard“ (expanding) yourself, you start to produce an army. In the early minutes your opponent’s expansion is defended well, in the later game he will have a bigger army than you, because he harvests in an additional base. However, there’s a slight window in which his defenses are weaker than your army, and his second base doesn’t throw enough profit to create a big army – that’s where the „Timing Strategies“ hit.

Again, these can be pulled of as an All-In form, depending how much of macro is designed to only support a one time attack. Most timings need your attack to deal a large amount of damage, but do not require you to end the game. Killing his expansion for instance might just be enough to get out ahead level.

What Strategy to use?

Most veterans will tell you to play the standard strategies – thus trying to get a good macromanagement and end the game in the late stages. That’s a good advice. These kind of strategies train your mechanics along the way – you learn how to deal with your base and control your army, step by step. Each minute it gets harder. You will also face a lot of the rush and timing strategies, thus understanding how they work from an outside perspective. Really, to improve playing „standard“ is very good.

Yet, I already told you to only use these strategies in 60% of your time. They might get boring after a while. Also, you might never truely understand the variety of potential openings, if you never test anything else. Feel free to add other strategies to your portfolio as well – or play with another race for funs sake. Variety just adds, don’t assume you have to play this one way and mustn’t have fun.

Build Orders

Another common mistake: Build Orders and strategy are often used as synonym. Hence, if asked for a strategy, beginners are linked to Build Orders, especially if they have a RTS background. Even if they don’t, they got told Build Orders are what they need – without any explanation. This is not the case.

A Build Order is a list, which a player follows. It tells him when to build what and when to attack. The huge advantage of Build Orders is that they describe how a goal can be reached – in theory – in the fastest possible way. If you, for instance, want to play a Five Pool, you will train one Drone, save 200 Minerals and morph a Pool at exactly this time. There’s not faster way to it.

However, now compare the term strategy to Build Order – there’s a slight, but important difference. The Build Order helps you to realize your strategy in the fastest possible way, but not always the other way round. The example I just listed – 5 Pool – is an All-In Build. The goal, building a Pool at five Supply, is somewhat identical with your goal – to have the Pool early on by sacrificing Drones.

However, for the more complicated strategies, such as Timings and Standards, the Builds will not be identical with your goal. The Timing, just for instance, is a vague idea to hit the opponent when his defenses are down. Now, a Build Order will prepare your attack in a timing window: You will realize that there are cases, in which you have to abandon your timing, since your opponent uses a Build Order that could hard counter yours. However, a timing – the idea of your strategy – might still be doable, if you select a good Build Order as response.

The same thought can be applied to standard strategies and Build Orders. You will realize there are some Openings to pick from, followed by more Build Order Follow Ups for the mid game, and an even bigger amount of potential Build Order Follow Ups for the rest of your game. Hence, the more complicated your idea is, the more complicated the Build Orders will be.

It sounds horrible so far, but reality is a little easier. Screwing Build Orders happens sooner or later, and you will have to abandon the idea that there was some sort of written guide line for all parts of the game. For now, especially if you’re only in the lower ranks, you should try to focus on understanding Build Orders first.

A Build Order has two parts – the right and the left side of them. On the left timings are written down, in the right the action a player has to perform.

Absolute Timings

The notation for absolute Timings is as follows:

8/9 – Pylon

The 8/9 refer to the supply count a player should have. He has seven Probes, one in the making and one supply free to add another Probe. He has to save 100 Minerals and put down his Pylon. Pay attention to the fact that Build Orders leave out information as to how much resources you need to train a unit, research a technology or to construct a building. Also, the placement of buildings is sometimes very important (more to that in later parts) – but usually no information is given.

The reason no real time is used is fairly easy: In online games you will often see lag spikes. This means that the real time might be at 3 Minutes, but tanks to lags your in-game is only at 2 Minutes and 55 seconds.
Furthermore, sometimes the absolute timings have a deeper meaning. In our example the 100 Minerals for the Pylon are automatically gathered, there’s no way you can spend the money already on something else. Also, the Pylon will finish in a time frame, in which your nineth Probe finishes – thus enabling you to train a tenth Probe; if you build the Pylon sooner, no Minerals for Probes are left, if you build it later, no supply is left to build the next Probe.
Imagine you lose a Probe and you are down to 7/9 supply – no need yet to build the Pylon. This is especially important for late stages of the game. Sometimes you do need a Probe more and you can’t simply ignore a lost Probe (or at least should not ignore it).

Relative Timings

The second way to describe something in Build Orders is done like this:

@100 Gas – Research Speed Upgrade
@50% Lair – Morph Hydralisk Den

This can be understood rather easily – the @ refer to some event, e.g. having gathered 100 Gas. The first 100 Gas are then spent on the Speed Upgrade (e.g. for Zerglings), since this is the most important upgrade you need.

The second one is a little harder to hit, especially for beginners. If your Lair-Upgrade is about 50% you build a Hydralisk Den. Pay attention to these details, as you might have to save some Resources to hit the timing.

Again, a deeper meaning is hidden in between the lines. For instance, the @50% Lair entry will generate a timing, in which the Lair and the Den finish exactly at the same time. If you saved 200 Minerals and 200 Gas, you can immediately research a Lurker upgrade.

There are plenty of Build Orders using this logic, for instance allowing you to get 100 energy in two ComSat Stations when you attack as Terran, or finishing your +1 Ground Weapon Upgrade as Protoss at the time your first attack hits Zerg.

So, do pay attention when you stumble across relative timings – they can help you out a lot for future games. Don’t take notes like that for granted, or some random result of testing crude timings – they can be transfered onto other builds most likely.

The Stages of the Game

Once you opened a page like Liquipedia, or visited a popular strategy forum, you will soon realize there are dozends of Build Orders. It’s only natural to ask for a „good“ one to start out with. Some Build Order that’s universal – good against anything. Here’s the downer: Any Build Order can be countered, at least softly. Most depressing for a beginner is that he will have a hard time to realize he was soft countered – small details pile up and lead to devastating losses. Not only that, he might also still struggle with mechanical demands, e.g. minerals piling up. Hence this sub-chapter: It might help you to understand where you went wrong, all mechanical aspects left aside.

Any game of Brood War has three stages: The first minutes, in which you chose your opening is usually referred to as „Early Game“. There’s no real rule when the Early Game transitions into the mid game – most times you could say the Early Game ends, once your first expansion really kicks off and you unlocked the first higher tier upgrades – such as a Citadel, a Lair or Factories. The last stage, the Late Game, starts once one of the players added a third expansion and unlocked the first top tier technologies – such as Hive, Templar Archives and Robotics, or Armories and Starports. You get the drift – it’s all very vague, but you should be able to follow me here. If you need numbers, Minute 0 to 5 would be early-, Minute 5 to ~15 mid game and everything else late game.

Game Stages and Builds

Now for the identification of Builds and Strategies. You can easily realize if a Build Order supports an All-In Strategy – if the list is short and if you leave out a lot of workers, it’s very likely an All-In Strategy Build.

Now for the hard part: Separating Timed Strategies from „Standard Strategies“; the problem is that both utilize „timings“ along the way. For instance, a Timed Strategy will tell you to attack somewhen in the mid game with an army you prepared for exactly this purpose. It will further describe how the attack has to happen and on which location. Afterwards you are left on your own. You have to decide what to do with a half assed attack – you might have caused damage, but not enough to end the game. You’re now level with the opponent, but how to follow up is up to you. There’s no real actions left in the Build, e.g. when to take your third expansion, or if you should unlock further technology.

Standard strategies however are mostly not really there. More likely, there are dozends of potential openings you can chose. If you look at Zerg, you realize that – in any match up – you can either open with a 9 Pool, a 12 Pool or a 12 Hatch. Regardless of what you pick, you can follow up the opening choice with a second Hatchery in your Natural expansion (the one closest to your main base) and a third in another Natural on the map. Not too much changes in these scenarios, at least not on a beginner level. Obviously, a 9 Pool is there to put on extra pressure on your opponent early on with a number of Zerglings, while you start to pump more Drones a little later. A 12 Hatchery focusses on Drones early on, but leave you vulnerable to early attacks. A 12 Pool is somewhere in the middle, some kind of compromise between both options – safe, but not hard on your economy. Anyhow, you will be able to transition into several „Standard“ Builds – Builds that aim to start a race for advantages: A 6 Hatchery Hydralisk Build, or a rather dusty 3 Base Spire 5 Hatch Hydra.

Other examples can be found for Protoss – a Forge Fast Expansion can be done by going Cannons first, Gate First or Forge First; a Terran can fast Expand with Command Center first, Barracks first, or after his first Siege Tank was build (against Protoss that is).

Mind you, this was only the list for openings if you want to go for a long game. After the inital first minutes and depending on what opening you scouted, you can pick from a long list of choices. You can switch from your initial idea to go for a long game and instead prepare a Timed Strategy.

At this point we’re back to the introduction and stereotypes – this is where you get your first glimpse of Brood War’s depth: It looks as if most games are the same, but the devil hides in the details. A Factory a minute earlier might be a sign for a Timed Attack – otherwise Terran might go for a very passive aggressive long game, also referred to as turteling.

To overcomplicate the thought process so far: Standard Builds do use very similar timings than Timed Builds would use. For instance, Terran will attack Zerg in „Standard“ games at a moment of Zergs weakness, just after the early game ended. Afterwards Zerg will counter attack Terran once the mid game ended.

Means and Ends

And now we arrived at the end of the introductory chapter about strategy. We will untangle all the facts I just spammed and make life a little easier for you.

It sounds as if there is no standardized Build Order out – that’s wrong. Most Builds have in common that their instructions become increasingly blurry once you raise your third expansion. There are simply too many options to describe all potential scenarios. Also, veterans do have a good idea what choices they might pick. Don’t worry if you’re overwhelmed and if you’re still in the low ranks – your opponents are as lost as you are.

The check boxes are the symbol for “Beginner Builds” – example of PvZ Builds on Liquipedia

This being said, I recommend you to go to Liquipedia and pick some of the Builds – one or two for each match up. Learn them and go with them. For each race, there are symbols added on the overview pages – these will tell you that „veterans“ recommended Builds. They’re not omnipotent, but will serve you well; either because they will guide you long enough, or because they indeed can only be soft countered. The soft counter part should also not worry you in your first 200 games per Build. Afterwards, there’s enough to improve. For now, just remember to get the Builds done in real game, that’s hard enough to start out. Not impossible, but a neat challenge.

> Protoss Strategy

> Zerg Strategy

> Terran Strategy

Back to the header: When reading such a recommended Build, try to understand it while reading, not while playing. There’s a huge difference. Obviously, you have to learn the numbers. However, do ask questions.

1) Which step prepares the next?

We already saw that the 8/9 Pylon allows you to constantly produce workers. Hence, look out what kind of steps in a Build are crucial. It’s not too bad if you build a Pylon 2 Supply numbers too late if you already have 100 Supply. But missing out on two Probes in the first minutes might be huge.

2) Are there relative timings I should memorize?

There are a couple of relative timings we told you – for instance the 50% Lair – Hydra Den Trick, to be able to get Lurkers the fastest way possible. Yet, there are dozends of examples you might want to know. For instance, there are builds in which you research a +1 Ground Weapons Upgrade for Protoss, while you also research the Zealot Legspeed. The timing, if done correctly, will allow you to launch your first attack with faster Zealots and the +1; this is huge, if one of the upgrade misses your attack will be significantly weaker. Futhermore, if you understood the relative timing, you might know what to do ingame, if one of the upgrades is still underway. If you realize the +1 will take another 20 seconds, because you screwed up slightly, you can simply just wait – or move already in position. Not a bad mistake. However, realizing that you missed an upgrade entirely, will tell you what to worry about.

3) Why would I attack now? Is there anything else I should do?

Very global and major instructions should always be carefully analyzed. For instance, if a Build Order tells you to attack at X Supply, you should ask yourself what the purpose of the attack is. Especially „Standard“ Builds will not really tell you. If you realize that while you attack for the first time with a bigger army, you also have to expand the purpose becomes clear: You want to distract the opponent from your expo. If your attack doesn’t really do much damage, it’s not that important. Well, you shouldn’t just throw away your army. However, raising the expansion and securing it might be key.

If you ask these three questions while reading, you’re very likely to learn a Build the correct way. Also, for a post-game analysis of losses these questions come in handy. Try to view any lose twice – once to realize when you first made major mechanical mistakes (forgetting supply depots, overlords or pylons / piling up money); the second time try to find where you left what the Build told you to do and how you can do it better next time. Did you attack but not expand? Did your expansion go up later than it should have? Have you focussed too much on an attack?

Especially the third point, the question of the purpose of major instructions, is very important. Build Orders sometimes do not tell you very universal advice: Expansions, for instance, will allow you to go forth with your build. If you are late on expansions the entire build gets screwed up; you might think you did it right, but that’s usually the point where you went wrong – getting supply blocked for too long, building too little workers, or building expansions too late.

An Example: Means and Ends

The last paragraph needs an example for you to understand. One of the most common mistakes for Zerg against Terrans is their misunderstanding of Builds. Usually, you would see a game in which both sides Fast Expand. Zerg then takes the action by transitioning into the Mid Game with Mutalisks. He will attack Terran here and there, leave and expand a third time in the meantime. Then it’s Terran’s turn: He will leave his base with Marines and Medics and attack Zerg’s bases if possible – or at least challenge the map presence of the opponent.

Now for the mistake: Zerg watches a lot of Koreans and they see how many units Koreans snipe with Mutalisks. They kick butt, they kill tons of SCVs, Turrets and whatnot. Then Terran moves out and Zerg has Lurkers ready. But our amateur doesn’t, because he still attacks. Most times Zerg even does rather well with his Muta-Micro: he kills a bunch of stray Marines and sometimes even Depots and Turrets. What he doesn’t realize is that Terran, with time going by, is able to build two Marines for every lost Marine. At some point he can move out and kill the Mutalisks in open field, where micro is harder.

At this point Zerg is in desperate need of Lurkers. However, he can only produce Lurkers or Mutalisks – hence the third base is needed. An additional Geysir allows him to produce Lurkers, unlock Hive tech and produce other units at the same time. Only three or four Lurkers are usually enough on beginner level to do that – two on each base’s choke point and the game’s over for Terran’s first major attack. Terran himself has to go for Siege Tanks and Vessels.

Yet, Zerg didn’t understand the logic of the Build. He thought that it is required to kill a lot of things, so he can maintain his dominance over the map. However, the main purpose of the attack is to stall the first attack – to prolong the time Terran has to sit in his base. Even if Terran pushes out to soon, Zerg could kill the first push with some Zerglings and all his Mutas. It doesn’t matter if he loses the option to attack Terran’s base, as he will soon have Lurkers. Sadly, he completely forgot about Lurkers.

And here the chain reaction starts. With delayed Lurkers he can get a third gas. With no third gas he can only add Lurkers in low numbers and a few Defilers. Just enough to hang on antoher five Minutes, until Terran has enough Vessels and can get rid of Zerg’s defenses. No Ultralisks to challenge the rising amount of Terran units – the game was lost at the point Zerg forgot to expand.

Identifying mistakes like that is not easy going – not by a long shot. It usually does take a lot of convincing from coaches to point out the underlying problem: Not the Muta Attack, but the expansion timing.

Some Simple Rules

Now, let’s say you went to Liquipedia and found some recommended Builds. Just follow them. This goes for, let’s say, until you reached a higher D+ and finally struggle to rank up to C-. This is only natural. It’s less a case of „do not read further material“, but more a case of „don’t worry if you hit a wall on D+/C-“. That’s where the advanced stuff really does kick in.

Mechanics

For your first couple of hundred games you should mainly focus on getting down any build correctly. Spend 60% of your training time on exactly these builds, the rest on whatever you like. However, if you do something else, try to get info along the way – what plays out, what doesn’t. But always take this new information with a bit of salt: It might only work because it’s wonky and other low ranked players can’t deal with wonky. It might not be the best kind of knowledge. It’s there to round up your portfolio – for now.

Workers

Next, always focus on your worker production. Terrans and Protoss should pump workers constantly, until their fourth base is running. Only then, and only if you did not lose many workers to attacks, stop production. Always transfer workers to your new expansions. 6-8 for Fast Expansions, 10 – 12 for a third and the maximum (12-15) to a fourth base. If any expansion is mined out, transfer whatever is left to another expansion (except gas workers, keep them in).

For Zerg it’s a little different and I’m kind of underqualified to say anything. Theoretically speaking for any non ZvZ match up you want to have 12 Drones mining per Expansion, plus three more for Gas. That’s enough, you don’t need to transfer workers, except for your Natural Expansion to speed up mining – and in this scenario only up to four Drones maximum. Always replace missing Drones – if you use five of them for hatches, build five and send them to mine. It’s not too bad if your fifth expansion runs only on 10 Drones, but your main on 14. The average matters. Also, for new expansions, be prepared to spend one wave of Larvae on Drones – these you transfer. If you have no time, it’s also okay to produce Drones in the newly build Expansion.

Attack and Expand

As we saw in the example, do ask the purpose of attacks. Most times these are there to take an advantage from your opponent, even if only temporarily; or more likely, they are done to shield your expansion, by binding an opponent to his bases. Hence, if in doubt, do attack, but retreat if you can’t end the game. A hint: You most times won’t be able to end the game with an attack, a fact you will learn very fast. Instead, expand and be prepared to defend the expansion. Once you feel save and there are no instructions, attack and expand in the same manner again. If no attack is an option, use your army to defend the upcoming expansion.

Also, do not be fooled by thoughts like: His expansion just finished this second, my army is near, I shall attack!. That’s a bloody foolish idea. Since your opponent uses a Standard Build that anticipates this kind of behaviour, your timing will just be bad – unless he screwed up big times and does whatever. Even if this is a point already part of the „advanced Strategies“ it should be stressed out. If you aim to attack an expansion, your attack timing should hit slightly after it finished and workers were transferred. Chances are, that in the process of an expansion being floated over / warped in / morphed, the army of the opponent is in place and can still be defended. However, the upcoming short minutes after, the opponent has to a) transfer workers, thus having fewer income, and b) he will add additional production buildings, which will also take away resources for potential re-inforcements. Since you lack experience of judging when this time frame can be abused, you prolly shouldn’t waste too much thoughts of being „offensive“.

Attacks

At some point in the game there is no more expansion to take, or you feel like you should do something pro-active. Well, if you’re up ahead in at least one mining base, you can try to attack. If you are not, and have no info about the opponent’s forces – let go of the idea. Attacking a fortress will lead to casualties, heavy ones usually. It’s a coin flip, low ranked players are sometimes so bad it might work – but sometimes not. The effect you have is confusion – you can’t really understand if it was a good idea or not. Hence: only attack if you’re absolutely certain you have the upper hand in terms of workers backing you up; not only workers, but also production facilities. Chances are, the low ranked opponent has a large bank roll, is supply blocked at about 160, but has better capabilities than you. Consequently, you might get his army down to 80 supply, yours too – but he will add re-inforcements and – if you’re lucky – you’re only behind in 30 supply and have to fight an equal opponent again!

Main Goal

Your main goal is to get experience. A feeling for when attacks happen, which attacks are good, and which will destroy you. Take every loss as win – you win experience. If you are careful and can handle the fact that you lost, you can improve from there. Every good player has this attitude – maybe except Idra. He will try to not fall for the same shit twice. Keep your head up, if reading carefully, you will be able to defeat the lowest ranks really fast. Also, don’t worry if you’re stuck, sooner or later it’s bound to happen. Rather, have fun experimentating with small changes. This will take you a long way.

Preview: Advanced Techniques

In the upcoming chapters, we will finally provide some content for D+/C-/C players, who struggle with basic ideas. It’s also neat info for low ranked players, so if you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to learn more.

We will go further in detail about Builds, and where you get information wrong. Stuff like the Muta-Blunder will be expanded; we will look at the logic of transitions, and ask what people mean when they tell you to „fake“, „threaten“ or do some other stuff you thought you understood already. It’s not really strategy, more like techniques.

First Steps II: Handling Fights (Micro and Scouting)

In the upcoming chapters we’re going to have a closer look on micromanagement and scouting. Both are pivotal to the game and are things you can learn rather easily. However, as for all things go, a good player will constantly work on these fundamental techniques his entire career. Consequently, do not worry if you’re still having problems in reality – you’ll improve with every game, bit by bit. Since this is only about the very basics, the chapter is valuable information for the lower ranks – D or D-. Ranks above usually know the details already.

  1. Micromanagement
    1. Does and Dont’s
    2. Melee vs. Range vs. Spell Casters
    3. Splash Damage
    4. High Ground and Positions
    5. First Rules: Pre-Fight Position
    6. Pre-Fight: Commands
    7. In-Fight: Value of Units, Focus Fire, Retreat
    8. Hit and Run
    9. Training
  2. Scouting
    1. Early Game Scouting
    2. Mid Game Scouting
    3. Late Game Scouting
    4. Preview: Scouting for Advanced Players

Micromanagement

If you skipped the previous chapter, here’s the definition again: Micromanagement refers to army movements as a whole – that’s it basically. However, reality isn’t as trivial as the definition. The goal of micromanagement (to micro, micro for short) is to maximize the own army’s attack, while minimizing damage taken. Micro can begin long before a fight happens, hence the anticipation and the choice of the battle field matters. The actual micro during a fight is important as well, but on beginner levels, it usually isn’t the reason why games are lost.

Does and Don’ts

First off, many people coming from games such as WarCraft III or other related titles have problems to start off correctly. There are tons of potential errors in what you can do, long before you even start up Brood War.

One of the biggest problems I encountered while trying to help out beginners is their deep rooted belief that statistical data might help them to identify the most powerful unit combinations for a fight. If you look at Blizzard’s data, and that provided by map makers, you’ll find some odd stuff. For instance, one of the most powerful counters to Mutalisks are Ghosts. They deal a ton of damage, can snipe them in no time and will probably defeat the flying threat without lots of „micro“ needed. However, nobody makes use of Ghosts in early stages of the game – that’s when the Mutalisks come in – primarily because you will never have enough ghosts in time. Consequently, do not try to figure out fancy stuff via statistics. Theory on paper and the reality usually differ a lot.

The other problem, mainly found in sub populations coming from „round based“ games, such as Chess or maybe risk, is that they tend to watch fights, rather than control them. Obviously, if you have the superior army, you will win by watching. If the armies are somewhat equal, you will lose, if your opponent micros and you don’t. Micro allows you to win with an inferior group of units. Keep that in mind!

However, the opposite can be quite problematic as well. Some people, mostly those coming from the WarCraft universe (including MOBAs), usually micro too much. Obviously WarCraft III was designed to have more battles than Brood War. In Brood War you want to control your armies, beginners, more specificly, want to avoid heavy losses, rather than be perfect in fights. It’s a lot easier to train re-inforcements and power over an opponent, instead of winning each tiny fight. You might suffer few losses in battle 1, but that doesn’t help if battle 2 is just around the corner and your resources are piled up. Hence: Try to focus on the fights, but never forget to refresh your troops!

 

Melee vs. Range vs. Spell Casters

If you have no idea yet where and what units to micro, you might just watch some replays, VODs or streams. The basic principles are obvious, you’ll see what units appear when, and how they are moved rather easily. You’ll realize that the Ghost example isn’t viable, and see that the alternative, Marines and Medics, work good in most cases. However, good micro requires training. A lot of it. Units in replays move differently from what you will be capable of, simply because you need to learn how to utilize them first. Dragoons for instance get stuck in the most stupid ways, while Marines rarely bug out. Brood War’s pathing can be a bitch.

Before we drift off, let’s look at some general rules and gather some interesting information. There are three important „groups“ of units: Melee (ground attack only), range units (usually ground and air attack) and spell casters (no attack, but spells), plus an additional feature: Splash. Splash damage is a type of attack that hits more than one unit – for example a Lurker’s shot, or a Tank volley. Don’t bother too much about that for a while, we’ll have a chapter for that later on.

The stage of the game does matter for your army. Usually, you start out with mostly melee units (except Terran), get some ranged units later on and in the later stages have support of spell casters. Hence, your army composition will change over time, and with that the value and role of each unit as well. At first, melee units, even the fragile ones, do matter a lot – later they will most likely turn into meat shields, shielding your army from damage. Range units deal damage at first, afterwards might be turned into some protector against airborne attacks. Spell casters are either supporting via heavy damage output (Psi Storm) or as defending units (Dark Swarm). What you can extrapolate thus far is: Always try to figure out what role a unit has in the stage of the game you’re at. Following up: With the game progressing, you’ll handle tons of units. In the early game you might want to „move“ Zealots one by one against other Zealots. In the late stages, you instead try to keep your High Templars and Dragoons alive, while the Zealots can do whatever, as long as they don’t fall down in large numbers. Consequently, now you try to control High Templars one by one, the Zealots in larger numbers!

 

Splash Damage

 

Splash damage, as we learned, always hits an area. Sometimes you can select the area it hits – e.g. with a Psi Storm, but most times the Splash will hit automatically, as it’s the case for a Lurker Shot. Again, don’t worry too much about statistics, you will get a feeling as to how much the Splash will do; you don’t need to know how much the splash in- or decreases for every pixel on the screen.

Splash attack works best against clumps of units, for instance five tanks firing on a ramp, which four Dragoons try to pass. This is a very important realization: Splash damage can be maximized easily, if targeting a clump of unit. Vice versa: the damage input can be minimized if you spread your units. Obviously, this works best if only few units with splash damage are there; with more units dealing splash damage the input can not really be minimized anymore – just think about 12 Lurkers against 200 Zerglings – the Zerglings never stand a chance.

 

High Ground and Positions

 

We already realize that positioning of units matter. If you have splash units, you want to defend in narrow spots on the maps – such as small bridges, gaps in cliffs or ramps. If you attack these spots, you want to have the splash hitting single units instead. This is also why Protoss or Zerg rarely try to crack open a standing Terran army, if they can just wait it out. It’s never a good idea to just run into a bunch of splash dealing units like that.

However, there are other important map features you have to know – the biggest advantage is holding the high ground. High Ground, such as being on top of a ramp, gives the defender a bonus. There’s a miss chance of about 33% for the attacker. This means, very vaguely, that instead of fighting three Zealots blocking a ramp, you fight about four in reality, due to the miss chance. It doesn’t matter if you have vision of the Zealots or not, unlike in StarCraft II. The miss chance always is in place. The same is true if a Zealot, for example, hides under a tree (however less important in most games).

Taken in combination, we see that holding a ramp is the best bonus you can have. However, sometimes it’s not possible for you to defend in special battle fields, such as bridges, small entrances or ramps (by the way, these are all called „choke points“). Imagine you have 12 Dragoons having to fight 12 Dragoons in an open field. Even without controlling the units in the actual fight you can do a lot already: setting up the Dragoons in a concave form (or a line rectangular to incoming forces) will immediately force the incoming opposing Dragoons to face a larger surface. That means that your own Dragoons will all be able to shoot, while the incoming forces might block each other for a moment. The result: The defending troops will get a few extra shots, that will turn the tide!

 

 

First Rules: Pre-Fight Position

 

To summarize what we learned so far:

  1. You should always make use of map features, especially chocke points and high ground when defending. When attacking, try to lure defenders out of these spots.
  1. It’s pivotal that you try to set up your units in a way, that every single unit is available to shoot. This can be done by creating concave formations.
  2. Against splash dealing units, try to attack with spread out units
  3. With splash dealing units, try to attack or create clumps of the opposing units, because you want to utilize the „area of attack“ to its fullest extend

 

Pre-Fight: Commands

 

A step back though – let’s look at the commands again. We already learned something about commands and short cuts in the previous chapter about macromanagement. There are different types of commands we want to analyse: Move, Attack, Hold Position, Stop and Patrol.

The „Move“ Command is the easiest one – if a selected unit is commanded to move (right click) it will just move. That means it will ignore attacks and just move. This can be bad and good – keep this in mind, it will be important later on!

The „Attack“ command is also a very basic command. If any unit is ordered to attack, it will automatically attack once an opposing unit comes into vision, regardless of what unit.

The „Patrol“ command is a mix between move and attack. A unit send to patrol between two or more spots (see SHIFT-Queueing patrol commands) will move constantly between spots, until commanded otherwise. If it meets an enemy building or unit, it will automatically attack. If it is fired upon by a target it can not attack (Zealot vs. Mutalisk), it will stop to patrol and run around aimlessly in worst case scenarios.

The „Hold Position“ command makes a unit stop and stand around. It will attack incoming units automatically, but it won’t chase them if they run away.

The „Stop“ command is a vanilla hold position version. A unit told to stop will stop and stand still. However, if fired upon it will run away if it can’t attack (Zealot vs. Mutalisk again), or chase the unit that comes into vision for better or worse. Only if a second stop command is issued, the unit will stop again.

Every of the commands has it’s very specific use and some extras to it. For instance, some range units, such as Vultures, will attack better when the patrol command is used. We’ll learn soon, that a Vulture might want to shoot at a target once, then move away, then shoot again. This works best if the commands are performed with: patrol (attack), move, patrol (attack), move, […], until the target is shot dead. The other option to attack-command, move, […] works not as good, as the Vulture will slow down. The Hold Position command works good for similar manuvers, such as Mutalisks shooting and retreating – in some cases: Move in Range, hit Hold Position, Move out of range, Move back in range, Hold Position and so on and so forth.

To determine what kind of command you use to „micro“ your units is up to you. You have to figure that out. However, one last important hint: Brood War’s interface will often fuck up if you add too much commands in a short time frame. Dragoons performing the above mentioned Hit & Run might suddenly stand around and do nothing. In cases like that order them to „Stop“ 3-4 times, and the bug will go away!

 

In-Fight: Value of Units, Focus Fire, Retreat

 

Now for the real „micro“. In fights you want to maximize the own damage output, while minimizing the damage taken. That’s rather easy on paper, however performing that in reality is a little harder.

We already learned that you have to know what kind of unit is valuable to you and which kind of unit is valuable to your opponent. Obviously, an Defiler is more important to you, than a stray Zergling – regardless of which side your on! If you attack, you want to kill the Defiler first, if it hasn’t casted anything yet. If you defend, you want to use your Defiler first, because it might turn the tide. Hence taking out or defending the most important units is key. You should always pay attention to these units, the rest comes later. You mustn’t think, but act. Hence, try to know beforehand what’s coming up – if you have to think which key to hit, you’ll miss a few important seconds.

Relating to that, we’ll learn a first technique: Focus Fire. Focussing your attack on one single unit or special targets is crucial. If you see incoming attacks, you want to take out the biggest damage dealers right away, and clean up the rest once the threat is gone. Vice versa, you want to move out of the fight, if your important units are taking too much damage too soon.

However – and this is important – again try to understand the role of a unit. For instance, Ultralisks are most times not the big damage dealers, but Zerglings are. I saw a ton of Protoss who frequently unleash Psi Storms on Ultralisks and then stand in awe when their own army got killed. So: instead of taking out the seemingly important Ultralisk in this fight, it’d be better to kill the incoming Zerglings – the units who deal the damage, rather than the meat shield.

Also, do not overcommit – there are pre-fight manuvers, such as trying to kill some High Templars with some Hydralisks. You might lose up to six Hydralisks if they take out two or more High Templars – these can’t cast Psi Storm anymore. However, there’s a pay off, if you sacrifice too many Hydras, it doesn’t matter for Protoss anymore, if he has lost two or three Storms – the damage was dealt already.

 

Hit and Run

 

For any non-spell casters go: they can perform hit and run. We already saw that Vultures might kill a Zealot without taking any damage, simply by shooting at them, then running away to a safe distance, then shooting again. This manuver can be done by any range unit. It doesn’t matter if the melee (or ranged) unit attacking the „hit and run“ unit will eventually reach it; e.g. if the Zealot will be able to eventually deal one or two hits. It can lead to a huge advantage: the few extra shots you get out are free shots. Hence, this technique is important for all stages of the game, but even more so in the earliest stages. Examples can be found in nearly any Match Up.

However, melee units can hit and run as well. For instance, two Zealots fighting each other with attack only is a coin flip – one side might win, the other not. Usually the defender comes out on top, as he will throw the first punch. If one side microes and the other doesn’t, this rule doesn’t hold true anymore. For one, you can target fire, thus taking out a unit sooner. You can also (or additionally) remove one unit temporarily from the fight and send it back in again a moment later: By doing so, the remaining units have to change their focus and attack a healthier target. Or in other words, it prolongs the life span of your units significantly.

 

Training

Training micro, in most cases, is best done against human opponents in real games. Most micro maps lack the „reality“ – there’s less stress and some combinations are so ridiculously unrelated to what you’ll face in a game, that they won’t help too much.

However, unlike for macro, micro can really be trained against the CPU, at least the very basics. Special scenarios, like Mutalisk Micro against Scourge, can be simulated very well. There are dozens of maps out there, which you might load up.

Portal: Micro Maps

 

Scouting

 

After the basics of Micromanagement, we’ll come to something losely realted to the topic: Scouting. Scouting is the constant gathering of information in-game. You want to have as much information on the opponent as possible, as you can learn a lot of things that way: Where his army is, what his army looks like, what units will come into play, where expands and so on and so forth. Let’s analyze scouting bit by bit.

 

Early Game Scouting

In the early game – the first minutes of the game – you want to learn a few key facts.

  1. Where your opponent spawned
  2. What opening he choses
  3. What to expect soon-ish

To gather this information, you’ll send out one of your workers, and additionally, if you’re Zerg, your first Overlord. Usually, the nineth worker is sent out and will „scout“ the map counter clockwise. Once he saw the base, he will move around to see what buildings were raised and in which time. Try to keep this worker alive. Zerg might cancel the scout earlier on, as his Overlords will arrive soon.

It’s important to keep the worker alive as long as possible, as you will see any incoming attack very soon, as well as the new tech switches. If push comes to shove and you lose your worker, send out antoher one. Better to sacrifice one worker – playing blindly is always bad. Very bad.

 

Mid Game Scouting

There’s a variety of things you want to check in the mid game – usually the stages beginners have to biggest problems with. Key facts you want to know are:

  1. Army composition and movements of the opponent
  2. Tech Tree
  3. Number, timings and defense of Expansions
  4. Amount of structures such as Warpgates, Hatcheries or Factories/Barracks

The first point in our check list can usually be reached the easiest way: Put up one cheap unit – worker, Overlord or weak fighting unit – in front of the opponent’s base exit. If he moves out, he will automatically attack that unit, thus triggering an alarm. If you can, move your unit away just slightly. If he fully commits, you will see – if he just fakes an attack, you will see also. From time to time, send in a very cheap unit (worker, Zergling), to check potential upgrades.

As for the number two and four goes (tech tree and structures), you will have to make use of flying units and ComSat Sweeps. Protoss has Observers and Corsairs, Zerg has Overlords and Mutalisks, Terran the Sweeps. Scout the important base points frequently, so you see changes fast enough to react and buy time.

Expansions can be checked easily as well. Have units sitting on the most important expansions spots of your opponent – these he can reach the fastest. That’s where he most likely expand. If you have a fighting unit there, you also have the bonus that the fighting unit will attack incoming workers, thus stalling an expansion. If an expansion is up, use cheap units to check if it’s defended from time to time.

Warning: Especially on low ranks players tend to „hidden expand“ – meaning to expand in strange places you wouldn’t expect. Thus, try to get vision of all remote expansion spots frequently – every two minutes or so. A lot of games have been lost because of such stuff, although it’s easy to prevent hidden expos from going up entirely.

 

Late Game Scouting

The longer the game progresses, the more information you have to process and to obtain. However, at some point in the game it’s not so important anymore to know what tech tree the opponent has – he’s most likely maxed out. Instead these facts are important:

  1. Where are his production facilities?
  2. Where is he still mining? Which expansions are mined out?
  3. Where is his army?
  4. Does he have weak spots?

The first point doesn’t have to be observed too much – once the buildings are there, they will remain there. However, sometimes it indeed is very important to know where re-inforcements will come from – e.g. from newly raised bases.

Related to that the second point matters. You will have to decide where to attack. If you have to sacrifice a large part of your army, you will want to know if the target is worth it. Attacking a nearly mined out base is not worth it, while a freshly raised expansion might be a good target. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to kill a nearly mined out base, if you don’t have to expect heavy losses, even if it only distracts and unnerves your opponent a little.

The most important part for beginners though is to see where the opponents army is. Try to constantly have vision of the biggest parts of the map. If he starts to move, so will you. If he doesn’t you can pay attention elsewhere.

 

Preview: Scouting for Advanced Players

 

We just touched the topic of scouting. There’s a lot more to it, and we haven’t even discussed why scouting is important. We’ll learn that in the upcoming chapters. It should be obvious to you, that you have to gather info – the more you know, the better. It will speed up your learning process, as you can deeply analyze what you missed easily afterwards if you lost – or why you won, because you had some information. Without knowing anything about strategy yet, you will get a better feeling if scouting all the time. If you don’t scout, you throw a dice. And that’s not what you want to do.

Advanced beginners can utilize the scouting information for plenty of strategical thoughts: Such as creating fake threats, fooling the opponent, preventing or hard countering movements. You can add a lot to your strategic portfolio by running around armies, flanking and so on and so forth. Even without knowing how to really interprete the data, scouting might help – just go with it for the moment.

First Steps: Handling the Game

In the „First Step“ Chapters you’ll read some very basic stuff – mostly how to handle the game. If you are already experienced, you might at least skip the Definitions part and move on to the rest. Skim over it and decide if it’s helpful for you. If it’s not, move on to other parts of the page. However, you might miss out on some small details. As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend the next parts for people still stuck in the D-/D range of ICCup.

  1. Definitions
  2. The Golden Rule
  3. The Golden Rule
  4. Shortcuts
  5. Hotkeys
  6. Waypoints and Rallypoints
  7. Minimap
  8. The Value of the Keyboard – an Example
  9. Creating a System
  10. Tipps and Tricks: Hotkey Systems
  11. Hidden Tricks
  12. Copy Hotkey Set Ups? What do Professionals use?
  13. Training: The best approaches

Definitions

Before you can dive into Brood War, we should clear a few things. Sooner or later you will find some phrases or words you simply have to understand.

Macromanagement (to macro) usually means that you spend resources or perform actions to get more resources. Any kind of base control – raising buildings, training units, researching technology – does count, as well as sending workers to mine minerals and gas. However, there’s a little more: e.g. setting up rally points for your buildings.

Micromanagement (to micro) refers to army movement and attacks in the more popular sense. This also includes positioning your army before a battle, as map features are a lot more important in Brood War than in most other strategy games (e.g. high ground advantages).

Multitasking is some kind of blurry word many veterans love to use. It describes any action you do, which is not related to either macro or micro. Personally, I don’t like it, as all actions could and can be classified by either „micro“ or „macro“. The only exception might be the so-called scouting – moving single units around the map to gather information about your opponent.

Closely related to micro, macro and multitasking is „APM“. APM stands for Actions Per Minute and is some measurement fans invented. There are several ways to calculate the APM. The most popular approach is to sum up all actions (literally all) in the game and divide it by real time. As result, you get a number e.g. „180“ – so you’d do three actions per minute in average.

APM Warning: This chapter describes how you can control the game, it’s not about strategy. Many people tend to believe a high APM score would mean you could control the game well. More think that „eAPM“ – APM without „useless actions“ – would be a better indicator. Both are just indicators, but in the end more than APM matters. If you learn what’s coming up next, you’ll also automatically score higher APM values along the way – so concentrate on your control, not on a number, you want to artificially raise. Also, don’t worry, there were plenty of high class players with a seemingly low APM. APM is not everything!

Mechanics: Improving the Macromanagement

You will usually hear that Brood War takes ages to learn, especially since its interface is so outdated. You can only control 12 units at a time, you have to click each building one by one, and so on and so forth goes the rambling. Do not fall for that myth. It will take you about thirty of forty games to get used to the exotic things, but you will learn fast, if you follow the upcoming tipps closely. It’s really not that hard and actually fun to pull of hard moves. It makes you appreciate the game more over time, I promise.

The Golden Rule

There’s one rule you have to follow: Do use your entire keyboard, and not just few of its keys. If you only use your mouse, you are bound to fail. You’ll learn that pretty fast. Hence, one hand on the keyboard, one on the mouse. The keyboard is your assistant, and you shall make use of it.

Shortcuts

First off, any command you can perform can be done by using „Short Cuts“. E.g. instead of moving your mouse to the „attack“ symbol and then clicking on the map, you can press „a“ and click. That’s a lot faster.

Anything else, literally anything, works the same way: patrol, move, stop. Same goes for training units, instead of clicking on a Warpgate and then on the Zealot symbol, you might as well click the Gatway and press „Z“.

A full list of all Shortcuts can be found on the Liquipedia Portal. If you use a foreign (non-English) keyboard set up, you can hover your mouse over the icons, until the Shortcut lights up.

Hotkeys

Hotkeys are the keys 1 to 0 and the keys F2, F3 and F4.

You can either bind up to 12 units on one number Hotkey (1 to 0), or one building by pressing CTRL+X (X being the number). If you, for example, bound one Probe to Key 1 and press 1 once, the Probe will be selected. If you press 1 twice, the screen will jump on top of the Probe. In the later game this might cause problems: For example if you have bound 12 units to one key, but all units are scattered among the map / or move with different speed around. Hence, you might have to adjust your screen by scrolling a little. As a consequence, if you manage your army via hotkeys, try to bind the same kind of units under the same hotkey – e.g. 1 for Dragoons, 2 for Zealots, 3 for High Templar.

Futhermore, some units do not have some features or lose them – a Lurker can not „hold position“. However, if he’s in the same group with an Overlord (for example), he very well can out of a sudden. It’s similar for spell casters, their abilities might not be casted, if selected with different units – the button disappears and can not be selected via Hotkey if non-spell casters of a different kind are in the same group.

The F-Keys on the other hand bind screen locations, but neither units, nor buildings. This means that if you press Shift-F2 while viewing the middle of the map this particular screen will be saved. If you scroll away and hit F2 again, you will immediately jump to the middle of the map.

Waypoints and Rallypoints

Rallypoints are available for any building that can train units – a Hatchery for example. If you select that Hatchery and right click on any point, any newly trained unit will move there. However, it really only moves, it does not gather minerals, and it will ignore attacks. So use with care.

Up to ten Waypoints can be given to any unit. If you hold Shift and right click on point A (hold Shift) and right click on Point B, the unit will move from A to B. With this trick you can pile different kind of commands, such as „Build Building here, afterwards move back to mine minerals“, or „Patrol between Points A (start point), Point B and Point C“.

Minimap

Lastly, the minimap is your friend. If you perform a command there (a-click on a spot), it will be performed in real game, without you having to scroll to the target area first. Imagine you want to move four hotkeys (1-4) filled with 12 units each across the map with the attack command. If you do not use the minimap, you have to scroll from one end to the other, before you can put down where they should move. With hotkeys you can press A click on the minimap and then everything moves – that’s time saved. However, before going into battle, you might want to stop the units. It’s a good trick to bypass some time, but for actions requiring more detailed control, it’s not the way to go (see Micromanagement / or raising a Building).

The Value of the Keyboard

So far it sounds a little strange – why would you need to know about all these features? The answer is: IF you combine them and perform well, you will gain the upper hand. In the low levels most players lose mainly due to bad mechanical performance, rather than due to strategical disadvantages.

To underline the idea, we’re going to compare a fictional Protoss vs. Terran game, you being the Protoss. One time with a hotkey system and one time without. You have two groups of dragoons grouped on two different hotkeys. They’re standing outside the Terrans base, ready to fight back any attack. You have your main base and your natural (the expansion that is next to your main). You want to train more units and you want to expand one more time.

Without hotkeysystem

0:00 You’re looking at the choke of the Terrans base. Your army is there, the Terran is not moving.
0:05 You scrolled back to your main nexus and built a probe with mouse only.
0:09 You scrolled to your natural nexus and bilt a probe with mouse only.
0:25 You scrolled to your gates and built 4 dragoons in your four gateways. Mouse only.
0:26 You selected a lone probe
0:40 You scrolled to an expansion spot
1:01 You built a nexus there with mouse only.
1:10 You scroll back to the Terrans choke. You see: nothing but blue soup.

What has happened? In Second 35 the Terran decided to push 20 meters in your direction and finished all of your dragoons. Too bad. You reacted too slow, and now you pretty much lost the game.

With hotkeysystem

0:00 you switch trough our two dragoon groups by pressing their hotkeys twice. No movement. Good.
0:01 you press your hotkey for the main nexus one time and train a probe with a shortcut. Note: you’re not jumping to it, since we only press the hotkey one time.
0:03 same with the nexus at the natural
0:04 you’re jumping with a F-Hotkey to our gateways, select them with the mouse one by one, and train dragoons with shortcuts
0:10 you select a lone Probe
0:11 you gave the probe order to move to the expansion spot (via minimap!)
0:14 you left-clicked on the minimap, and you now see the expansion spot
0:18 you placed down the nexus with shortcuts
0:22 you switch back to our dragoons via pressing their hotkeys two times. You’re seeing the Terrans Tanks unsieging. Time to attack or should you retreat?

Creating a System

Only by using the features explained above, you’re on a good way and you will improve a lot. However, if you do not have a system to back it up, you will still improve slower than you could – just using all hotkeys and short cuts randomly is too chaotic and often times overwhelming. Try to memorize some routine, you constantly cycle through over and over again. If you follow that scheme, you will automatically know what to do next and train what people call „muscle memory“. This prevents you from thinking / trying to figure out what buttons to press next; your goal is to go in a robot mode when it comes to control.

This is what you should do regularly:

Step 1: select your army. Is it in danger? Is it going to be attacked?
Step 1.1: If it is in danger: attack if you can win Step
1.2: If it is in danger: retreat if you can’t win
Step 2: Take a look at your supply limit
Step 2.1: Enough supply for units? Yes -> move on to step 3
Step 2.2: If no (that kicks in if you’re close „0<x Repeat Step 1-5 Step
5.1: It rises although you trained units. Expand if you’re in advantage or if the game is about to be a draw
Step 5.2: If you’re not in an advantage, or if your opponent could prevent you from expanding: build more production facilities / build tech buildings
Step 6: repeat Step 1 – Step 6

Tipps and Tricks: Hotkey systems

You will soon learn that you run out of hotkeys once the game goes into the late stages. That’s really bad. In the example we had our Main Buildings (Nexus, Hatches, Command Centers) on Hotkeys – in reality, you bind them to hotkeys, but not during the entire game. There are hundreds of small tricks you can learn. A good player never stops to evaluate his own hotkey system and his routine.

First off, try to construct similar buildings on the same spot. If you plan to warp in five Warpgates, they should be close to each other. This way, you only have to bind one Gate on one key, the rest can be selected by mouse. To elaborate, if the center Gate is on a Hotkey, you press that twice – and see the rest of the buildings.

Following up, use the rally points right away. Rally all your buildings soon to your choke point. If that point is bound with an F-Key for instance, you can add units to your existing hotkeys easily (Press Hotkey X, Hold Shift and select the new units, CTRL+X again).

Also, try to figure out how to use waypoints. Just a random example: There are Terran „timings“ (which we will discuss later), in which he has to „cut“ Gas gathering. This means he will pull two SCVs out of his refinery, once his first Barracks is completed. He then builds a Factory and a Depot at the same time, before sending two SCVs back to mine. A lot to remember. However, you can Select one Gas-SCV and waypoint-construct the Factory, then waypoint-move it back to Gas. Same for the Supply Depot. Thus, two SCVs automatically perform the correct actions in the right time frame, and you do not have to remember when to send which worker where.

This, by the way, goes for the F-Keys as well: Iloveoov was known to use them to set up rally points. He’d put his Factorys on F2 and his choke on F3. Then he pressed F2, selected a Factory, pressed F3 and right clicked – rinse repeat for all.

Lastly, many players will struggle to control a massive army in the late stages of the game. It’s not possible to bind all units to keys, which is especially true for Zerg and Terran. Zerg will control too many Zerglings, Terran will need some spare keys for ComSat usage. So what to do?

One helpful thought is to only bind the most important units – the one that deal the most damage, or are otherwise important to the army. The rest can be controlled mouse only, they die either way and that’s most likely their purose: Forming a meat shield. Selecting them mouse-only isn’t so bad in this case, as long as you keep them close to the units you have on hotkeys.

The other helpful thought is that the F-keys will entirely replace your production hotkeys – no more Main Buildings or stuff on those. Instead of clicking twice on one hotkey to jump on top of eight Warp Gates, you will use one of the F-Keys. These can’t be used for units anyway.

Hidden Tricks

There are hundred of small tricks hidden in the game, especially when it comes to moving your army or specific units in the correct way. Following up, just a short list of examples, which might be of use:

Any flying unit without air attack has a hidden „Patrol“ command feature. For example, a drop ship ordered to patrol into the opponent’s base will immediately retreat if fired upon. This can come in handy for beginners still struggling with mechanics. However, in some scenarios you really want to not use it, as you might sacrifice the dropship (because it will still unload in the opponents base before it dies).

Defilers do cast „Dark Swarm“, a spell under which range attacks basically don’t work at all. However, Defilers are mostly used against Protoss or Terran with Zerlings and Ultralisks – both move faster than a Defiler. It’s really hard to cast the Spell correctly for beginners. An ally of mine once told me to simply „cast it on top of Ultralisks when they run towards the opponent“ and the spell would always hit the right spot. It’s strange, since the Ultralisks are always slightly ahead, it does so happen that the spell will indeed hit very often very well, even without you controlling for its success; to elaborate, the Ultralisks will only then be in range of the Defiler, when they reach the opposing forces – so the Swarm WILL target the correct area in many cases. Again, it’s not always the case, but good in very stressful situations.

Terrans in the past often struggled against Dark Templars – if they scouted the cloaked units too late, they had no way to stop them. However, in the early game they often „blocked“ their ramp by placing 2 or three SCVs on them. Above this blockade a Barracks was floated, so no manual attack on the SCVs was possible (because you couldn’t see them). Incoming Dark Templars (or any other melee unit for that matter) couldn’t attack the SCVs and close in on the base (as they, for some reason, tried to attack units hiding behind the SCVs). However, again the Patrol chaos starts – if Protoss uses the Patrol command correctly, it will bypass the general fuck up, and the SCVs will be attacked first, potential defenders will be ignored.

Lastly, the „gather minerals“ command is notable. Any worker can slide through units if it gathers minerals. Hence, if you see minerals and you send a worker to mine, it will slide through units blocking their path – another way to get rid of the aforementioned ramp block; in this case you would send two or more workers to mine, until they’re on the opponent’s ramp. Once they “cross” the block, they are told to stop. After being stopped, your workers and the blocking workers will fuck up and move around aimlessly, thus creating a path for your real army.

Copy Hotkey Set Ups? What do Professionals use?

My first basic advice is to not care too much about what other people use. Usually, tons of veterans will jump in and paste their set ups – most times not helpful at all. They will not tell you little tricks, just tell you what they have on which hotkeys. Nothing you can learn there. Same goes for pros – these have unique set ups, that work them and their style. Hence, keep your fingers off it. If you really insist, just for curiousity’s sake, to have a look, simply download some replays. Open these files with BWChart and check it – nothing easier in the world. It might help you, but really, whatever works best for you is the best solution to your problem. Again, you will constantly work on your hotkey system all the time, so don’t bother trying to copy just for the sake of copying.

Yet, observing First Person Streams of Professionals might help you a lot, if you closely watch. Examine when they do what, and when they scroll, use mouse selctions and so on – you might catch some tricks, as the aforementioned “Dark Swarm on Ultralisks” example. Try to extrapolate general patterns (see the routine described), less the exact keys. This is most times the healthier approach.

Training: The best approaches

In order to memorize Short Cuts and trying to figure out which unit moves in which way, a couple of games against the computer will help you. However, you will see that there’s a difference in between just memorizing Short Cuts and „training“ your mechanics. If you intend to train, do play humans. Stress is a large factor. You only overcome stress, if you face stress in this scenario.

There are some maps designed to put stress on you. Personally, I don’t think they’re „that“ helpful, but at least they’re better than stomping the Garm Brood in safe haven.

>> The Maps (“Hotkey Trainer”)

Also, you might think you don’t improve in your first games. Try this trick to motivate you: Save your very first games, and compare to what you just „lost“. See the difference. It’s going to be massive!

The FAQs

he following chapter is a rather small one and designed for those, who have little to no experience in the Real Time Strategy genre. It answers the most commong questions raised by those, who’re still trying to figure out if, when and how to start playing the game.

  1. Why Play Brood War? Is it (still) worth it?
  2. Are there still beginners out there?
  3. What keyboard/mouse/misc. devices do i need?
  4. Which race to choose?
  5. Where to play?
  6. Technical issues: What do I have to do?

Why Play Brood War? Is it (still) worth it?

Since I’m a zealous fan, the answer to the question is obvious: Brood War is always worth a try. The international scene is rather small, but you can still find games fast enough, without having to invest too much into social interaction if you don’t care for that. The South Korean and Chinese scene is still highly active – these two sub-scenes will most likely provide fans with high class matches for the next few years. Both are somewhat professional, the Koreans more so than the Chinese.

The modern Operating Systems (Windows 7 and above) might cause you to fix things. Brood War is old, but there are plenty of patches and fixes out there, so the chances are high it’ll only take you about 30 minutes total to set up the game. Routers and setting up a good internet connection however might be more difficult, depending on your ability to fix things on your own. Anyhow, for this kind of questions, see also the Technical Issues chapter.

As for fun goes: Brood War is a lot of fun. There’s plenty to discover and to learn. It’s a very versatile game, allowing you to be creative, while demanding a lot of you. Even though the looks are outdated, the game can be understood quickly on a basic level – a few glances at matches and you’ll have an idea of what’s going on. However, it’s a neverending challenge – you’ll never become perfect playing it, but you will also most likely never master any musical instrument either. There’s a very good reason why South Koreans are still madly in love with the title after more than a decade of televized matches. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start a journey for a life time.

Are there still beginners out there?

The most idiotic stereotype created by Brood War die hards is the rumor that the game would be so hard, that everyone would lose his initial matches. I won mine actually, and back then the game wasn’t any harder than it is today. And so did many other players.

There’s a grain of truth to the wisdom – Brood War does require a lot of attention if you want to learn it the correct way. However, the learning curve is not nearly as steep as you might think. Improvement might seem slow for a beginner, being confronted with a rather antique interface, but improvement will be visible. Actually, many might be surprise by how much they learned in a short time frame – however, people also tend to mimic the perfection seeking veterans very fast. Just try to remember you first game and compare it to your games a month later; I’ll guarantee that you already learned a ton easily.

But back to the question: The majority of the active foreign scene (non-Koreans) is indeed used to the game, and most are not really beginners anymore. That doesn’t mean there’s no more casuals – there are still many of them left. You can compete with the average player in no-time, if you truely want to do it. Also, there are groups of beginners, who organize leagues, tournaments and skype groups.

Related:

Teamliquid.net Tournament Forum: Look out for the D/C Ranks Leagues / Tournaments

Skype Beginner Group: Ask to be added!

Training Partners: Title says it all.

What keyboard/mouse/misc. Devices do i need?

Nothing out of the ordinary. There’s no perfect set up. Really, you can use anything you like. Don’t fall for any trap here – if you can use it to play any different game, you can play Brood War as well. None of the professionals actually did hours of research on equipment. They started out just as you did.

Which race to choose?

Whatever you like best. There’s no easiest race for beginners, even though veterans will tell you otherwise. Protoss, rumors says, would be easiest. Might be, might not be. If you don’t like the way your race looks, moves, or attacks, you’ll never enjoy the game. Hence, play what you like.

Where to play?

If you never played Brood War competitively – LANs in 1998 do not count – you should probably play a few games against the computer first. Simply to get a feeling for the movement of the races, to learn what unit does what, how the tech tree looks like and so on and so forth. Once you did that, you can go online and try your fortune against other players.

There are plenty of places you could visit – among them the classic Battle.net. Apparently some channels in Asia and US-West do exist, which feature good players. However, more places exist on all severs, which are anything but nice. There are plenty of hackers, nobody uses important tools and you will face a ton of scrubs, which will hold you back from learning the game. If you constantly bash the lowest of the low, you can’t possibly get something out of it. Similar, but slightly different, Gameranger and Garena. These portals are equally silly.

A better idea would be ICCup or FISH. The first one is the traditional home of the foreigners, mainly dominated by Russian speaking players. It has only a few hundred players – which is still enough to find games. The ladder is easy to understand. You start out with 1000 points and the rank „D“. Every 1000 points you climb up one rank (D+, C-, C,…). Any win against a player on the same rank will earn you 100 points; however, the amount of lost points depends on the rank. On D Ranks you lose 50, on C 75 and B already 100. The special feature of ICCup’s ladder revolves around the so-called „Maps of the Week“. Each week five maps are selected. If you play on them, you gain another 30% bonus points.

To play on this server, you have to register an account on their website. Afterwards, you want to install their launcher, or some third party tool allowing you to join the server. See more in the Tech Detail chapter again.

The alternative to ICCup is FISH – the Korean sever with thousands of players. However, joining there is kind of tricky, as you have to go through some Korean, as well as some other difficulties. None of them are hard by any means, but the pay-off for a beginner is not that great. FISH’s population is mainly Korean, hence language problems if you want to play against them. Again, there are tutorials guiding you here, but well…

Generally speaking, you should skim through the Teamliquid Tutorial if you want to play. I advice you to only play there if you are already good enough to realize that this blog isn’t for you. This means, that you should be able to compete with the best foreigners.

Technical issues: What do I have to do?

Depending on what Operating System you run (windows 7 or higher), you might face some problems. Generally speaking, the most common issues revolve around color bugs. This means that the lobby of the game (online) might have inverted colours, or other strange looking stuff. This is a downer, but can easily be fixed. Just google „Windows X Color Fix“ and you find the sources fast.

More troublesome however are the router related questions. In order to be able to host games on your own, you have to set up your internet connection accordingly. For any tech savvy person, these two things have to be set up:

1) Any Firewall or Anti-Virus software have to allow Battle.net and Brood War to connect

2) The Port 6112 has to be forwarded to your local IP for TCP and UDP (both!)

Since there are many models, I’ll make it short, try these links (for non-tech savvy people): http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft/Portal:Beginners/Gateways#Guide:_Port_Forwarding

Furthermore, you will have to use „Launchers“ in order to join either FISH or ICCup. Both have several things, you will need: the so-called plug-ins. One of them is an Anti-Hack (which function is obvious) and the other important one is the LanLatency. The latter allows you to play with less latency in games, without it controlling your army will become very annoying, as each action will be performed with a longer delay.

The launchers to use are The ICCup Launcher for ICCup, and Wlauncher for FISH. However, both are not that great and most likely buggy. Try the MCA64 Launcher instead – which features a ton of good stuff the original tools don’t: This includes a port forwarding plug-in (which sometimes works very well) and entries for both servers. If you want to stream, there’s also tools to manage twitch.

If you want to play on ICCup, you will also have to download their Mappack. Un-zip (Un-rar) it and put the downloaded files in your \Maps\ Directory.

Beyond the Game (9)

The finals were reserved for the last day of the World Cyber Games. Most of the foreign fans were sad and happy at the same time. It was yet another year featuring only professionals in the finals, the hopes of a complete upset were shattered. Draco should not have advanced as first of his group, so that he had a better seed and at least the small chance to face a Korean in the Semis instead of the Quarterfinals. Also, the third place match never was such a big deal. The ugly sister of the Grand Final’s Grand Final was an odd thing – for some reason the organization decided to have it played out after the actual first place match was over. Legendary, a professional and argueably a heavy weight in his country, wasn’t a match for Midas. Two relatively one sided games later, the Koreans made their tripple perfect, all Medals went to KeSPA country.

 

However, there was enough reason to be happy. Even an old grump like me couldn’t help but wet himself once it was clear that the titans of the game, Iloveoov and JulyZerg, would meet again. Both had a history, a really exciting one. Iloveoov was the more famous of the two, after his career most likely even the more important player. Back in 2006 this wasn’t so sure yet. Iloveoov did develope a whole new Terran vs. Zerg. Just like his mentor Boxer, he was unstoppable and unbeatable, despite or maybe even because his very low APM. He was the guy who could pump out tons of units in no time, and simply waltzed over any ground force he would meet. A lot of the old generation Zerg tried to counter his play, but they simply could not find a chink in his armor. His timings always hit them anyhwere, any all-in was thrown back into their faces. If they tried fancy micro stunts, oov showed that he could do more than just build units. It was incredible, really. Oov’s records were incredible, the myth of his 27-0 streak (which is argued about), shows that it was an upset for him in his prime to just drop one set. One set.

 

This era of dominance ended with a new Zerg – JulyZerg. The first time they met JulyZerg was still a nobody compared to the bus driver, but a nobody with a high APM, perfect execution and enough nerves to not start shaking in his booth only because he faced Oov. Their battles were legendary, especially since JulyZerg improved so much, he finally found ways to take sets and matches off the titan at the important tournaments. The TvZ match up changed again, especially once July showed the world what Mutalisk Micro can be like – not some flapping insects buying time, but a unit deadly enough to eat anything on the map if handled correctly. There was more than one Terran who cursed JulyZerg for making the Wings of Fury popular.

 

Both of them had two OSL gold medals, Oov additionally held three golden MSL titles. There was no way this match could be topped, regardless of what would happen. It doesn’t need high quality 50+ minute games for Brood War fans to freak out – just remember the Bunker Rushes of Boxer against Yellow. Except this time, there was no Yellow. This time, there was a golden Zerg, a Zerg who was able to take over the KeSPA ranking from a dominating Terran. Enough of the introductions, if you’re really interested in all of their history, I recommend reading Thorin’s article.



The Aftermath

To sum it up, the article reads a little if it was one tournament out of many. But it was important for the history, history which was written between the lines, in forum comments and which now is the foundation of several Liquipedia articles. So, what changed because of this World Cyber Games?

For one, the public perception of Mondragon as unbeatable monster was gone in Germany. Regardless of what people said, the Germans were always a little proud to have had the unbeatable elite in the past. First, we had FiSheYe, who dominated in 2003 and 2004, afterwards it was Mondragon’s turn for the better part of 2004 until WCG 2006. There was no tournament the two of them could not have won. Also, our Nation Team kicked most wars, simply because we had one of them participating. In Europe there were the Dutch, the Scandinavians and the Polish to make our live hard, sometimes the Russian Terrans as well, but none of their rosters were stable enough. Now, all of a sudden, the Polish started to play like true monsters and did not stop – thanks to the hype Draco caused.

 

However, that was only Germany and not all of the Germans thought like this. Between mid 2004 and mid 2005 the question remained if Mondragon was the best player in the world; only Androide could challenge him on eye level, but if the two met, Mondragon didn’t take any chances and destroyed the Russian in legendary matches. The Russian was gone in mid 2005, just to be replaced by Sen and Testie. The two of them were hard competition, but Mondragon was still slightly better, even though Sen didn’t cave, he won almost as much as Mondragon did. It seemed to be an era of Zerg. Thanks to Mondragon’s guides and Sen more sound builds any Protoss had a hard time to deal with Zerg players copying one of the best. Draco wasn’t really in the top circle of the trio, he was always one step behind. At least in public, West European views. Everyone knew he had a great talent, but the big records were missing. And all of a sudden, in the course of just a few months, he rose to power. There now was a new star, one could copy, most knew. He was exactly like FiSheYe was before, seen as slightly arrogant, heavily critized by some, but owned everyone. It was the first big result of a talent, who’d stay in the Brood War universe until 2010. The first chapter in a new world.

 

This would be the end of this blog. I hope I didn’t bore you to death and that enough games were displayed to keep you reading. For the outro there’s one last thing you should watch – Spitfire’s highlight compilation of the WCG 2006.

The Highlight VOD

Beyond the Game (8)

The semi finals were set, the four remaining players were four professionals, one of them the Chinese Legend. As good as Legend was and still is (he still plays in China), he was no match for Iloveoov, he couldn’t perform nearly as good as Draco did. His preparation wasn’t enough.

The other Semi Final was a lot more interesting, as one of the best TvZ Snipers of his time faced the first truely dominant Zerg: JulyZerg vs. Midas. Again the masses in the forums raged, since there was no live coverage of the event. The news were refreshed time and time again, people hoped that, against all odds, one or more reporters at Monza could at least write a text based battle reports. Nothing. The fanatics had to wait for hours only to hear that the replays would be released „somewhen after the event was concluded“.

In retrospect it wasn’t too bad that the games were not streamed live. The series started with a game on Gaia, the four player map shown in the previous VODs. July opened with a fast Pool and Speedlings, trying to find Midas on a close position. However, Midas spawned on cross position and could easily defend his fast expansion against the incoming Zerglings without losing anything. July expanded and prepared a Three Hatchery Mutalisk mid game transition, with more Zerglings than usual. He tried to bait the Terran, showing a few of his Zerglings, hopeing Midas would follow them into the open map. He did so, but with more Marines and Medics than Zerg could handle. July thus had to add more Sunkens and hurt his already low worker count even more. Just like Mondragon did against Draco, he tried to build more Zerglings to crush the opponent’s bio force – which he later did, but it took him too long. Midas had the same army, a lot of Siege Tanks and turrets at his base. However, the following Mutalisk harass was enough to keep him there until July’s third went up. Midas mid game attack followed, which July tried to clean up with more Zerglings, Lurkers and Mutalisks, but eventually had to type out, once he realized he didn’t match the Terran’s army.

the final attack

The second game wasn’t that great either. Midas tried to build a fast expansion on Paranoid Android right away, with his Barracks being below his ramp. He used the building smartly to shield his handful of Marines against July’s Speedlings and the game seemed like a copy of the opening match on Gaia. July added even more Zerglings, again trying to bait his opponent. However, this time Midas scouting SCV was intercepted and two Zerglings blocked July’s ramp. What looked like a two Hatch Mutalisk Build actually turned out to be an aggressive Three Hatch Zergling bust. Midas tried to follow the ordinary timing of his last game, only to realize a few seconds too late that July had two control groups of Zerglings – which sourrounded him perfectly and broke his weak defense. The score was even.

too much for the Marines

The last game on Azalea made up for the stale games before. The third time in a row July opened with Speedlings, but this time the fact that both spawned on cross positions wasn’t in favour of Midas. This time the strategy made a lot more sense. July spawned on the bottom left, whereas Midas spawned top right. Azalea promotes fast expansion builds, due to its long walking distances and the small choke points leading to the center of the map. However, the top positions can not be walled off by Terran easily. If they do, the Barrack’s exit point will automatically spawn the Marines on the outside, making the wall ineffective. July knew that and he also knew that he had a chance of 66% that Midas would spawn on a top position. Hence, the Zerglings now were a real threat, he did not need to sourround, or have the Marines walking into the open before taking them out. Midas knew this as well and opened with a conservative two Barracks Build. He slowly expanded to his natural, while July had more time to take not only his natural but also his mineral only.

Impressions from the third game

Nonetheless, the Terran was able to somewhat hit an early timing attack and could at least force Zerg to build five Sunkens, thus neutralizing the mineral only Drone bonus July had. In the next minutes July harassed with Mutalisks and stalled, while taking almost all of the bottom half of the map. Thanks to Midas’ superior micromanagement, he could overcome his disadvantage of having a lesser economy for a few minutes, pushing the Zerg back meter for meter. July was in desperate need of high tech units, namely Defiler and Dark Swarm. Once he knew he could defend his main base, he added an expansion Hatchery in the top left – forcing the Terran to run around the map. Everytime July tried to backstab or kill Midas army, Midas came out victorious, clearly so. Fifteen minutes into the game, JulyZerg sacrificed his bottom right expansions and went for a large counter attack with Defilers. Midas couldn’t hold and lost.

Continue on page 9: The Finals